Darkside of the Dwarf: A Fly in my Gazpacho Soup

Jonathan Capps is a student from the North of England and is a regular poster on The Official Red Dwarf WebBoard and is known for airing his comments frankly. He also happens to be the webmaster of The White Hole and the person typing right now. Hello.

My Red Dwarf videos, DVDs, books and other collectables are some of my most treasured possessions. I have been watching this show since a very young age and it has been my life for a considerable amount of time.

However, I’m not without my gripes… so, here they are.

Series VII and VIII

As Starbug exploded it seemed to be all over. Rimmer, despite his heroics, had failed and the future crew had killed them all. But what’s this? “To be continued”. And that’s where it all started to go wrong.

Three years later we get Series VII. It becomes apparent that Rimmer will only be in four of the eight episodes (two of these in the form of flashbacks). This is the Series first major downfall in the quality of the show.

To make matters worse though, Rob Grant has also left the writing partnership, leaving just Doug Naylor and a hand full of staff writers. One of the first posers the writers need to solve is who can they write in to replace Rimmer. Kochanski is decided on and she is included as from Episode III. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where my moaning starts.

Despite the first two episodes featuring Rimmer they didn’t quite match up to the quality of previous series. This is not much of a crime however, because things like that usually grow on you. The real problem begins when Rimmer leaves and Kochanski arrives. Her arrival instantly wrecks the entire balance of the show that has been carefully established over the past 10 years. Kryten is reduced into a whining, moaning buffoon due to his insane (and totally unfunny and uninteresting) fixation that Kochanski is going to take Lister away from him, Lister is constantly trying to act mature and responsible to impress her (totally going against the ethos of the entire character) and the Cat continues his downward spiral toward becoming a total parody of himself.

And so for the next five episodes we are made to watch four characters that simply do not complement each other at all. Kochanski bitches, Lister lusts, Kryten whines like a little girl and the Cat acts like a total moron with some truly terrible punch lines to match. Oh dear.

What’s more the exchanges between Lister and Kochanski aren’t nearly as interesting as they should be. Instead we get dross like this:

Lister: Go on, say it
KK: Say what?
Lister: You know what you want to say, so say it?
KK: Alright then. My Dave would never have endangered the crew like that.
Lister: You had to say it didn’t you?”

Exchanges like this bring absolutely nothing to the story and are, quite frankly, embarrassingly tedious.

To be fair for a moment, it must have been a really tough task for Doug to cope with a show that had lost its, arguably, best character and losing his writing partner, whom he has worked with since University. This series was also where new writers were brought on board to help with the load (2 extra episodes than the for the previous six series). So, we get Paul Alexander, Kim Fuller and Robert Llewellyn. The problem with this being that their writing stick out like a sore thumb – it’s quite painfully obvious that it’s not Rob and Doug writing these lines and so it seems un-Dwarf like and very uncomfortable. Like listening to Oasis when really you just want the Beatles back.

However, the sins of Series VII are mere peanuts compared to the pile of donkey shite known as Series VIII.

Some of the problems I have with VIII are the same as the ones I have described above, but there are so many new things I have against this series, I don’t think I’m going to be able to recall them all.

The main change to the show was, of course, the finding of the ship in asteroid form and the subsequent rebuild of both Red Dwarf and the original crew. The main premise of this Series is that the gang have been found guilty of crimes against the Space Corp. and are immediately chucked in prison.

None of the charcters have changed since VII so there is still the horrible tendency for Kryten to whine on for Kochanski to be… well… crap. And the Cat manages to be even more annoying than in Series VII. The return of Rimmer is welcome, as are the return of the old bunk room scenes, but no amount of excellent acting from Chris or any of the others is going to make up for a poor script and tired jokes.

Norman Lovett also makes a return to the show but, in true style, has had his character of Holly dumbed down with nothing but a string of one liners and truly awful jokes, such as the Theory of Relativity ‘gag’.

Holly: Its a theory, right, that you only tell your relatives

Genius, I think not. Doug and the other script writers go on to insult the fan base with a string of knob jokes that would have made a ‘Carry On’ fan wince. I’m sorry, but period jokes, erection gags and escaped knobs just isn’t what Red Dwarf is about. It smacks of lack of material and desperation, so the easy route was taken.

Red Dwarf is well known for having a tight budget but Series VIII’s budget was made notoriously tight due to some expensive and totally unnecessary CGI of dancing Blue Midgets and a fucking T-Rex! Both cheap, visual gags, but among the most expensive things in the show. The money situation was so bad that a promising final show entitled ‘Earth’ had to be scrapped. Now what you rather see? A satisfying end to the Red Dwarf TV saga with an epic episode, or a big T-Rex eating curry and Danny John-Jules mincing about with some CGI Blue Midgets?

Speaking of rubbish CGI…

Re-Mastered

The Re-Mastered Series I, II and III is probably the only thing that the majority of Red Dwarf fans agree on, in that most agree that they are a bag of shite.

In my opinion, the first three series of Red Dwarf are about as perfect as you can get. The writing, acting with a certain ‘raw’ quality and some of the most beautifully realistic model shots and sound effects I have ever witnessed. And this is all in a series made in the late 80s.

So it was with much disgust that I watched these three series ‘re-mastered’ back in 1998. Gone where the very ‘special’ special effects, such as the magnificent model shots and the wonderful sound effects and in came a ton of inferior CGI and hammed up and, quite frankly, unnecessary extra sound effects.

The BBC and GNP seemed so please with their new CGI toys that they actually cut some scenes to accommodate more CGI starscapes! And this is in, let’s remember, a sit-com – not fucking Star Wars. The most confusing cut was in the episode ‘Balance of Power’ (from Series I) in which the whole ‘black card/white card’ scene was cut for no apparently good reason. Many believe it was the best scene in the episode, and what do they give us in return? A CGI Dwarf that looks like a big, Red, overly large pencil.

Even more bafflingly, some of Holly’s scenes from Series I had been re-shot and in some cases extra jokes and lines were added. This gave some of the scenes a horribly random feel with some dialogue being with the 1988 Norman and every now again you get the 1998 Norman. Now, lets face it, Norman isn’t going to look the same 10 years later, so why they only re-did certain shots I will never know (if they must replace anything they could have done the whole lot). What’s more, his extra jokes had a distinct ‘gag’ like quality (as seen in Series VIII) which completely went against the ethos of the first series, being a more character based program.

Now some people, sad, sad, lonely people, would argue that the first two series where in need of re-mastering. But they fail to see the point that the whole feel of the show (grey walls and a very ‘real’ feel) was what was the most endearing thing about it. They didn’t need whizzy CGI and silly noises to make the show a hit in 1988 and I see no reason why they would need them 10 years later, either.

In fact, the main reason for the re-mastering was to pander to the US audience, and it has been said they were only released over in the UK to stop an up-roar from the fan base. The yanks can keep the re-mastered for all I care.

It continues to baffle me why they bothered to re-master Series III, though. One of the most polished series and they cut in more of the same shite, CGI, new sound effects and some things that just defy belief: they re-dubbed Rimmer’s mum! Why the hell did they feel the need to do this? Too much money to spend perhaps? I honestly can’t think of a *single* reason why this decision was taken. Very strange, indeed.
All in all, I don’t like re-mastered Dwarf. Things should be left how they are. Thank goodness GNP and the BBC saw sense in releasing the original series on the DVDs. Thank heavens for small mercies.

And the rest

Is there much more to complain about really? In the 15 odd years since its creation, Red Dwarf’s only main faults have been the ones listed above. So lets indulge in some pointless nit picking shall we? Yes, let’s.

Some of the continuity errors can get up my nose somewhat. The one in which Lister has his appendix removed twice is OK because it’s quite funny and it is explained away in the Doug Naylor novel ‘The Last Human’. But some are not so forgivable, like the ones in ‘Tikka to Ride’ from Series VII. In the previous episode (Out of Time, Series VI) it was explained explicitly that the time drive could not move them through space, but in ‘Tikka to Ride’, they quite clearly go back in time and space when they materialise in Dallas, 1963. On top of that the theory that they are still alive because its impossible for your future selves to kill your past selves is contradicted IN THE SAME EPISODE when the future Kennedy assassinates himself. Confused and annoyed yet? I am.
Of course, there’s plenty more continuity niggles (where did the mirror universe machine come from in series VIII? Why does Lister keep changing which century he’s from?) but I could be here all day, so I’ll leave it at that.

Well, I feel better for that.

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3 Responses to Darkside of the Dwarf: A Fly in my Gazpacho Soup

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  1. -In the previous episode (Out of Time, Series VI) it was explained explicitly that the time drive could not move them through space.

    Yeah, but the future selves can go back to earth & in time cus they do dinner with the Hitlers. Then in Tikka it say that things from both dimensions have merged in the created Paradox and changed starbug as a result.

  2. Funny, I much prefer Series VIII – relatively speaking – but then that’s probably because Kochanski is my least favourite thing about Series VII, and she seems marginally less uptight and annoying in VIII (and of course, Rimmmer is back as well).

    ETA – Oh, and my gets-up-my-nose nitpick is in Back to Reality, when Kryten says that, in the hallucination, Rimmer could no longer blame his failings and shortcomings on his parents because he shared an upbringing with his richer, more important, half-brother, when the fact is, he shared an upbringing with much more successful brothers in reality, so how was it any different with a half-brother (other than possibly only one of the parents he was raised by being biological)?? I mean, story-wise, it must have been despairing to him, or he wouldn’t have ended up with that hallucination, but the only thing I think would have made him despair about that was being even more pathetic and hopeless than he is in reality; I don’t see how his upbringing factors into it.

    As far as Tikka, besides not being particularly crazy about that episode, I just wish they’d used the original ending of Out of Time; it wouldn’t have killed them to give Rimmer that one win and let him be the hero for once*; it’s not like they didn’t show a better side of him when he was contemplating becoming the new Ace.

    * (As far as I’m concerned, that’s how it happened, but it should have been canon.)

  3. Yeah, but the future selves can go back to earth & in time cus they do dinner with the Hitlers. Then in Tikka it say that things from both dimensions have merged in the created Paradox and changed starbug as a result.

    And I’ve been meaning to correct Phil on stating that Zoidberg is an evolved lobster in his Future Echoes article for three years and one week. ;)

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